Tag Archives: Assignment 2

Assignment 2 – tutor’s comments and subsequent changes

I received my tutor feedback for assignment 2 yesterday, and it can be read here. 2-hollywoodward-tutor-report. Overall, it was positive, although he seems to have picked up on my feelings of frustration with the work, and maybe I should tone that down for the assessment.

Overall Comments
You have submitted a good assignment and demonstrated some excellent research and an ability to engage in critical analysis. It’s clear that you have worked very hard on the assignment. Your input is solid and although you aren’t entirely happy with the final images, I’d suggest that you have learnt a lot and the experience has been very beneficial. There are some points that you can address with the final selection and also points to bear in mind for future assignments. A little more controlled application at the time of taking the images would be beneficial and help you to produce images more aligned to your aims. Keep up with your focus and commitment as it is evident that you are progressing well.
Having left the images to one side for a while, I am now feeling better about them, and am coming round to the belief that they were among my better work. I take his point about controlling the portrait shoot more – I had never really done a formal shoot  before, and there is  much to learn about how to manage the meeting in order to get what I want out of it. Up to this point, I have largely been taking photographs of the client without direction, and this needs to change in future. I need to read some books by photographers who talk about this aspect of portrait photography, and two books I own need to be reviewed in detail, Jane Bown’s Faces and Gregory Heisler’s 50 portraits. I also plan to visit the Taylor Wessing exhibition in London in a couple of weeks and will review that from this viewpoint too.

Feedback on assignment 

You have produced an interesting assignment, and one that you have clearly laboured over! The submission is appropriate and reflects upon the brief’s criteria. The premise for the project, photographing Parish Councilors is fine and demonstrates that you are considering the context of your work. The theme holds the series together and allows another layer to the work rather than it being just a set of random portraits.
The final images demonstrate your ability to apply critical analysis. On the face of it they are a set of classic minimalist portraits. They demonstrate a uniformity within their framing and camera position. Through your visual research you have identified an appropriate visual strategy. The main inspiration appears to be Joel Sternfeld’s ‘Stranger Passing’ a solid body of work. However, as you have realised, producing these types of portraits is not as straight forward as it appears.

Previously I spoke about interacting with the sitter but make sure that you are in control. You should be directing the shoot. If you are too passive you will not make an interesting shot. I think that it’s this control that is missing from a few of your shots and in some way your reliance on wanting to show your personal relationship has affected the outcome. Regarding their facial expressions, if you look at Sternfeld you will see that the majority of the sitters are almost expressionless, like the lady at the garage, this allows the image more ambiguity and gravitas. Often it appears that it is a fleeting moment, this needs working on by the photographer.

Feedback on individual images

Your first portrait is the most successful as we discussed previously. No changes required for this one.

The guy at the phone box is not a bad portrait but I don’t think it’s what you had imagined, the smile is over familiar and the pose a little contrived. Hard to see from contact sheet but shot P1520046 looks like it may be a better option, remember though what I said about framing options.

I have posted both images (before & after) below. My concern about the second one is that the subject is in shadow in what is otherwise a bright, sunny image.

Man in the woods, again not such a bad shot but maybe would have been better him still and more effectively posed, how about shot P1520991, sitting down but still full frame, again can’t see his expression though.

The second image was my alternative selection for this person. However, when I consulted my peers, they had felt that the fact he is seated distracts from the coherence of the whole series. For myself, I prefer it as an image, as it is more static than the walking one.

Yellow coat lady, I like the way she is standing, also note that she is not smiling feels more compelling. Again look at composition, should have shot landscape in camera she should ideally be shifted over to her left slightly, let the window frame her, window frame sticking out her head is annoying.

As it happens, the original photograph for this image was taken in landscape. I have cropped it differently above, as suggested by my tutor.

The final image is nearly there but it lacks a certain element to pull in the viewer, image P1530048 when cropped may be stronger. I think that you have neglected a stronger shot, (Amanda) images P1510890/P1510892 or P1510902, look good from what I can see on the contact sheet, try them in the final set. 

Here are the before and after selections for image 5. Again, the second was another that I had considered, but rejected on the grounds that the positioning of the subject was out of kilter with the other images. However, that is no longer an issue as the overall positioning are now different, so I will include it instead of the first.

The other images he suggested were:

The first of these had been in my original selection, but was discounted by my peer group on the grounds that the background was not very informative. I prefer it to the second, so will reinstall it in the overall group, at the expense of the telephone box one, which I think is the weakest of the set.

So, after tutor feedback, the suggestion is that I go with the set below.

 Suggested reading/viewing

Have a look at these portrait photographers:

Rineke Dijkstra: http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2008/12/conversation-rineke-dijkstra

Hannah Starkey: http://www.independent.co.uk/artsentertainment/art/features/hannah-starkey-twenty-nine-pictures-2187389.html
Pieter Hugo: http://visualmelt.com/Pieter-Hugo-The-Hyena-Other-Men

Plenty of reading there to keep me going.


Assignment 2 – the selection process

The early stages of the selection for this assignment were difficult, and I felt I was really struggling to obtain anything meaningful and coherent with my first few shoots. I have three series of images of different subjects during that period which just did not work, and which were not worthy of adding to the final set. (Copies of the contact sheets for these three, as well as the others are attached at the end of this post). I am therefore grateful for my tutor’s suggestion not to rush the process, and to concentrate on what it is I like about this image below, which I had told him seemed to be the best of what I had so far achieved.


On mulling it over, I decided that the main features of the image I liked were the natural pose, which has a sense of dynamism and the fact that the person was directly engaged with the viewer in a way that expresses both their personality and their relationship with me, the photographer. The background is bland but has meaning to the subject, being farm land which is currently being prepared for a large housing development.

It therefore seemed sensible to concentrate less on the location (albeit still showing it as a background to the subject) and to focus more on a natural, unforced pose and expression, which expresses my own relationship with the subjects, and this made the shooting and selection process much easier for subsequent shoots. As a result of this thinking, the final three shoots were straightforward and lacked any of the angst and doubt of the first few.

Below, I have considered each of the sets of contact sheets. In most cases, these are a selection taken from a larger number of images in order to fit them onto one page. (I do not know why they have white lines across them, but it is not important for this exercise).

Subject 1 – Chris

Lightroom (P1510363.RW2 and 13 others)

This was my first shoot, and although I am happy with the concept of the shoot, and particularly like P1510374, it subsequently became clear that the subjects were all going to be photographed outside and at full length, so reluctantly this set had to be dismissed.

Subject 2 – Talis

Lightroom (P1510390.RW2 and 14 others)

There were a number of possibilities in this set. I particularly like the last image, and this was my first choice for this subject. However, on asking fellow students their opinion of the proposed series, this was the one that did not seem to fit. Apart from it being about a building, the colours and style seem to jar with the others, rather than flow, and I have decided to go with P1510400 instead.

Subject 3 – Ann

Lightroom (P1510409.RW2 and 12 others)

This set was relatively easy to produce and there are several within in it that I like, especially P1510419, but th3e subject is too far away in the image, and so I have decided to use P1510424 instead. As mentioned above, this was the starting point for the final set of images.

Subject 4 – Amanda

Lightroom (P1510864.RW2 and 19 others)

Sadly, none of these were suitable. The weather was very bright sunshine, and there is a great deal of contrast in many of them. Also, the subject is posing rather more than I am aiming for, so this set has been rejected.

Subject 5- John

Lightroom (P1510432.RW2 and 13 others)

In my first shoot with this subject, there were similar problems to the shoot with Amanda, and the light was too harsh for successful images. I also was not happy with the decision to photograph the subject next to the sign – it looks forced and slightly peculiar. He was kind enough to allow me to undertake another shoot, and this was much better. For the purposes of this assignment, either P1520953 or P1520991 would work, but I decided to use the former on the basis that all the other selections were full length, so this one should be too.

Subject7 – Steve

Lightroom (P1520010.RW2 and 4 others)

This short shoot was not successful for a number of reasons. Again the weather was not helpful, and I did not have time to chat to the subject enough for him to feel comfortable about what I was doing. He therefore looks unhappy and posed in the shots, and I decided to leave any of this series out.

Subject 7 – Gareth

Lightroom (P1520043.RW2 and 19 others)

Bizarrely, the weather was also sunny for this shoot, but the telephone box happened to be in the shade of a large tree, which softened the light. Any of the last four would have been fine for the series, but I felt the composition was best in P1520073.

Subject 8 – Vince

Lightroom (P1530040.RW2 and 18 others)

Another gloomy day for this shoot, and again there were several possibilities for the final selection, but I decided on P1530108 as the image most reflective of the person.

This selection process has been long, but I really benefitted from taking a step back for a while to allow some objectivity to enter the equation. I am also grateful to fellow students for the feedback they have given on the whole process and I am now more confident that the series reflects what I was hoping to achieve One of the elements of the final series which has been remarked upon is its autumnal feel, which is good because it lends a unifying seasonal background to all the images.

Update on assignment 2, and other stuff

I haven’t posted anything here for a little while and freely admit that gloom and despondency have been the order of the day. After my first four shoots for assignment 2, I am now unsure about whether my idea will work or not. The plan had been to create a space around each of the subjects which reflected their attitude to their role, i.e. detail people would have close-up images and strategists would have plenty of space around them. However, although this works for each person individually, I am not sure that it give coherence to the set as a whole, and I am wondering whether to go back to the drawing board. My preferred images of the four people I have photographed so far are shown below, and I’d love some feedback about what fellow students think.

Additionally, I have been talking to the people at the office about framing some of them and putting them up around the office, so they need to work for that too, and I am not sure about how people would react to some of them. They are not the sort of images most people are used to seeing.

I still plan to photograph another two or possibly three people for the series, but really want to keep a version of image 1 in the set, as this person is an important member of the team. Part of my issue is around going back and asking people if I can photograph them again, although none of them were at all negative about the idea and they all seemed keen to help.

However, despite this hiatus, I have been busy elsewhere. On a more positive note, I had an epiphany with regard to White Balance and went off to my local country park to photograph the autumn trees this weekend. (Until now, I have essentially only been using Auto White Balance). I was much happier with the colour balance in the images I produced, and am glad I have added this to my list of photography skills. Also, while I was standing there taking photographs, I started talking to various people, and one lady kindly allowed me to photograph her little girl, in exchange for a copy of the images. I sent her the images and was delighted, but a little flummoxed, to be asked by her if I was a commercial photographer, as she liked them so much.

Below, I have put a couple of the images I took, including one of the little girl.

My mentor, Stephen Bray, subsequently contacted me about the trees image, which I had posted on Facebook, and suggested that it might be better without the people lurking in the background. I responded saying that I had wondered that, and was considering whether another one might be better, featuring some people more prominently. His response is quoted below in full, and I need to think it over in more detail. I have versions with and without people as well as the one above, and look forward to a fairly detailed appraisal of the messages sent by each version.

My preference would be plain without the people, but that’s just personal taste. Your image might work well in a collection – where the other photographs also show people obscured by nature. That would be enigmatic and cause people to stop and think, because the people’s inclusion would obviously be deliberate.

Finally, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to organise my Lightroom Catalog, Keywords and Collections in a more sensible way, to free up computer space. Last week, doing a search on my Catalog with Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder, I discovered that almost half of my images are duplicates, which might explain why my computer is slowly grinding to a halt. It’s a slow process but should ultimately be worthwhile. As part of this, I have opened a new WordPress.org blog to shadow this one, while I learn how to use it – the processes seem to be very different from WordPress.com. The purpose of this was to allow me to export images directly from Lightroom to WordPress, but so far I haven’t found a way to do it successfully, so the whole thing might have been a waste of time and money. Ho hum!